The traditional news media has always enjoyed a special place in American cultural and political life and, as a result, has evolved into an institution populated by Ivy League elitists whose influence on our society far outweighs their intellect or their knowledge. The internet dealt that establishment a mortal blow, however, and ‘fake news’ – along with their own flagrant lack of integrity – has tarnished their precious reputation.
As if things were not bad enough already for the celebrated Fourth Estate, the election of a new President who prefers to tweet his message direct to the people may represent the final element in the avalanche that buries their gated community.
Today’s journalists have assumed many of the same characteristics of today’s politicians; they have become extremely thin-skinned and react with – pick one or more of the following – horror, disgust, contempt or indignation when criticized or insulted; they are certainly not above massaging the facts to suit their own world-view; they loudly proclaim their commitment to integrity, objectivity and transparency whilst actually practicing very little of these conditions.
The internet eventually gave rise to citizen journalism and, subsequently, blogging. These two activities are certainly not the same thing, but both threaten the vaunted class of professional journalists. Put simply, both citizen journalists and bloggers are able to deliver information, opinion and advice direct to the general public over a platform that is now universal in the developed free world. Cultural or trade-craft bloggers, perhaps, are less of a threat because they are often blogging merely on subjects of personal interest and reach relatively small audiences. Political blogging, however, has now become so pervasive that the most successful practitioners occasionally show up as guests or contributors on national broadcast or cable news programs.
So-called citizen journalists have moved beyond blogging to actually sourcing, researching and compiling their own reports of major news and cultural events. As horrifying as it would seem to the media establishment, some of these people are getting paid to report, and yet did not even attain a liberal arts degree.
The typical establishment journalist who writes, broadcasts or anchors for any of the major media brands would be appalled at the thought of being compared to a blogger but, in reality, what actually separates them, in terms of expertise and resources? The professional journalist has, perhaps, greater research skills and certainly has better contacts and better access, but many bloggers have a depth of knowledge of the subject about which they blog that many professional media types could not match. Most professional journalists are not experts on the subjects they report; they rely on news agencies and research sources to acquire the knowledge they need to produce their work.
They have no superpowers that set them apart. The best of them are very talented wordsmiths but, other than that, they are mere mortals who fulfill a role that is no longer special and exclusive.
Queue the appearance of ‘fake news’ – a creature that has stalked the information superhighway since its birth and has now moved into the spotlight. The traditional media seized upon it as a blessed scapegoat; fake news, they contend, is produced by people who are not qualified to report the ‘real’ news, or have an agenda (as if they, themselves, do not); fake news contributed to Hillary Clinton’s electoral defeat; fake news is tarnishing the sacrosanct reputation of the media establishment. Last, but certainly not least, any news that doesn’t support the Progressive agenda is, of course, fake news.
The last nail in the traditional media’s proverbial coffin may have arrived in the form of one President Donald John Trump. The overwhelmingly left-leaning media elitists did themselves no favors by taking the unprecedented step of declaring it their solemn duty to oppose Trump – to the point of actively trying to sabotage his march to the White House. In their hubris, those liberal pundits and opinion-makers put all their chips down on blue in this election cycle and watched in horror as red came up again and again. Trump confounded them with nothing more than his Twitter account. He speaks directly to anyone who is willing to take the time to read 140 characters. The media filter between the people and the President has been pierced.
Now that he has taken office, it appears that Trump will abandon the exclusivity of the White House press briefing; moving its location and opening it up to outlets that, previously, could not have hoped to reserve one of those precious seats.
Social media, fake news (although who’s to say what is fake?), the politicization of traditional journalism and an anti-establishment billionaire businessman-turned-President. Traditional journalists try to steer clear of mixed metaphors, but I’m a citizen journalist and I believe that this is the recipe for a perfect storm that will finally break that elitist and dishonest institution we know as the traditional mainstream media.